Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are tied at the top of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, but they still have contenders within striking distance as the series heads into Ft. Worth, Texas. Only three events and 1,400 miles of racing remain before the trophy is awarded.
The championship may go down to last 400 miles of racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway and maybe even to the final laps. Fans and NASCAR officials would enjoy that playoff scenario.
The next 500 miles on the 1.5-mile oval with 24-degree banking at Texas Motor Speedway could also count big for the championship competition.
Whether Kenseth’s magical year will have any stardust to spare over the next three races is the question. One thing is certain; if Joe Gibbs Racing gives him a top car he will likely wheel it close or at the first drop of the checker flag.
Kenseth shared his confidence.
“I’ve been fortunate that Texas has been a good track for me throughout my career,” Kenseth said. “Racing at Texas is always a lot of fun because of the great fans who come out to the track, and I’m looking forward to a lot of good racing there.”
Johnson may be tied with the guy with the charmed season, but he is suspected to own a golden horseshoe and may yet again toss it in with the good work of Crew Chief Chad Knaus and team.
He seems as confident as Kenseth.
“It’s going to be a great race,” Johnson said. “It’s an older surface so that means tires are going to be important. With three races to go it’s going to be a great battle. That’s what the fans want to see. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed after Sunday.”
Jeff Gordon hasn’t won a NASCAR championship since the Cup Series was Winston. He’s smoking (not tobacco) to get his first Sprint championship. From his third place spot only 27 points away, it would prudent for both Kenseth and Johnson to be looking in their rear view mirrors.
Gordon is buoyed from his recent Martinsville victory and shared his thoughts going forward.
"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so that puts us in a comfortable position as to how we approach each race,” Gordon said, “I love the team's attitude. We've been having fun since Chicago. We're really in sync right now."
Kevin Harvick isn’t out of contention even though he is moving on from Richard Childress Racing. He recently expressed some of his reasons for leaving RCR, but continues to perform superbly on the track.
“Texas is one of those places where the tires wear out, but track position is so important,” Harvick said. “We tested there last week. I’m hoping we learned enough to put ourselves in a position to run in the top five and possibly even win the race.”
Kyle Busch could still be a factor when the green flag flies at Homestead. Sometimes his drive on the edge pushes him off the brink, but he is competent and confident.
“It’s a fun place,” Busch said. “It’s really challenging because of the flatness of the corners, getting into the corners, and then they’re so banked through the turns and then the exits of the corners. That was always really weird for me to try to figure out.”
Busch or one of the 42 other drivers may figure out TMS well enough to be first to the checkered flag.
Fans without tickets for one of the 122,377 seats for the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 3 can view the action on ESPN TV at 3 p.m. ET.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanctioned NASCAR or team representatives.